The Role of Money in Major-Gifts Fundraising
Putting these two principles into one big "sort" results in making decisions that are a confluence of relationship and money. It is not always easy. And it is not always objective. But a lot of the data that informs the decision is available.
My question to you is: Do you know your donors? If you do, you know the answers to the questions set forth in these principles. Do they want to relate to you? o they have the capacity to give? If you know all of this, it is relatively easy to know what to do.
Since money is a medium of exchange and donors are giving it to you because they want to help you get something done that matters to them, then how do you figure out who, in your donor base, to talk to?
Here is what I suggest:
- Make sure, when selecting the donors to consider for a caseload, that you select off the donors at the top of the giving pyramid, i.e., those who give the most and give most frequently. This is a bias toward inclination of the donor vs. capacity. Inclination is a tangible and actual demonstration of value given and interest. Now, if there are two donors of equal inclination and one has higher capacity, and you can only choose one, then you choose the one with higher capacity.
- Jeff and I have said this before, but it is important — make sure the donors actually want to relate to you personally. In our experience, over the years, we have discovered that only one in three of the donors meeting the metric for major-donor consideration (point No. 1 above) actually want to relate more personally. So if you don't take the steps to actually find that one of every three, then you will have, conceptually, 2/3 of the caseload that does not want to relate to you. This is a huge waste of MGO labor and poor stewardship. We have a whole process of qualifying that is quite tedious, yet thorough, which we would be glad to share. Just let us know. It can take seven to eight months to systematically go through a pool of donors that met the metric to find a caseload of 150 qualified donors.
- Once you have a fully subscribed caseload of 150 qualified donors, we do not allow prospecting of any kind. A good MGO is usually a good salesperson. Always optimistic. Always seeing opportunity. So there is always some donor or prospect who "has a lot of money" and "I think she is interested" and "it doesn't hurt for me to add her," etc., etc. The grass is always greener … we are very strict about not allowing this kind of behavior. Why? We have proven economic value in the donors who are on the qualified caseload. And we want a single, laser-like focus on them. Once a year we look at all of them and decide to move some of them out because higher potential actual donors (not just possible donors) are available. The donor attrition of many caseloads we see is unacceptably high because MGOs are allowed to "fish outside the pond." This area causes a fair amount of tension with MGOs because they are constantly told to turn back and mind the caseload. It's funny how attractive the new donor/prospect is and how ugly and boring the current donor can be. Familiarity breeds contempt. This is something to strictly manage!
- The last area of caseload makeup is that we don't want to have many so-called "stewardship" donors on the caseload as an extra attachment. Here's why: Many MGOs just cannot let go of donors they need to let go of. You have experienced this. I agree that a donor who has supported us well, who now has unusual mitigating circumstances, needs to go into a stewardship mode and not be moved off the caseload. I also agree that a donor who has given us a good portion of his or her estate and who now cannot give much in current giving, should be in a stewardship mode. But if all you can say about a donor is "well, he has a lot of influence," or, "she is such a wonderful person," or, "she has a lot of potential," I cannot support putting that donor in a stewardship mode. The whole concept of the stewardship category is both good and dangerous and needs to be managed very carefully. Otherwise you have MGOs "turning their heads" toward something that will not have an economic yield. And, sorry, that is what the job is … to secure revenue for program.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.